IATA calls for change in CORSIA baseline to protect airlines from future higher offsetting requirements
Fri 3 Apr 2020 – As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, IATA has called on the ICAO Council to change the baseline calculation used for the CORSIA offsetting scheme for international aviation emissions. Under rules agreed by ICAO, the baseline is set at the average emissions for the years 2019 and 2020. For the 15-year duration of CORSIA starting next year, airlines are required to purchase offsets to cover any annual growth in emissions above the baseline. The collapse in global air traffic as a result of the outbreak, with demand unlikely to recover this year, will lead to significantly lower 2020 emissions. This in turn will lower the baseline considerably than was previously projected and result in much higher anticipated offsetting requirements and therefore costs once the sector returns to previous levels, says IATA. It requests the Council to make the change no later than the end of June.
In a position paper, IATA says the baseline must be adjusted “to ensure the sustainable development of international aviation and avoid an inappropriate economic burden on the sector.” It recommends that only emissions for 2019 be used for calculating the baseline.
In support of its justification for a change in the baseline, the IATA paper quotes paragraph 16 of the A40-19 CORSIA resolution passed at the last ICAO Assembly in 2019, “… on the need to provide for safeguards in the CORSIA to ensure the sustainable development of the international aviation sector and against inappropriate economic burden on international aviation, and requests the Council to decide the basis and criteria for triggering such action and identify possible means to address these issues …”.
The IATA paper argues: “Allowing the use of 2019 emissions as an alternative would preserve the environmental benefits that were forecast to be achieved through CORSIA as the adjusted baseline would remain more stringent than what the baseline would have been without the Covid-19 crisis.”
The airline trade body is also concerned that countries already signed up to join the voluntary pilot and first phases of CORSIA, and those still considering joining, may reconsider their positions in order to protect their airlines from potential higher compliance costs if no change is made to the 2019/20 calculation. States have until June 30 to notify ICAO of their intention to join the scheme from the beginning or decide to discontinue their voluntary participation.
Accordingly, IATA urges the Council to take a decision on a baseline adjustment before this date at the latest.
IATA also calls on ICAO to urge States to extend the May 31 deadline for the submission by aeroplane operators of their 2019 verified emissions report until at least the end of October 2020. It argues Covid-19 travel restrictions and confinement measures in many countries “have made it impossible for verification bodies to conduct verification activities.”
Historically, air transport activity has rebounded quickly after previous global crises but IATA’s March 24 Covid-19 impact assessment points to the potential for a deep financial recession following the outbreak that would delay the air transport sector’s recovery to previous levels. If this was to be the case and a 2019 only baseline applied to CORSIA, this could considerably reduce airline demand for offsets, at least in the 2021-23 pilot phase.
Although it is too early to predict the impact of the pandemic on total emissions from international aviation this year, IATA’s current forecast is for a 38% fall in global passenger traffic in 2020. According to IATA, global emissions in 2019 – from domestic as well as international flights – totalled 915 million tonnes. Emissions from international aviation activity, which will be covered by CORSIA, account for around 65% of the global total.